Here’s Tyler Cowen writing about areas where the UN is successful:

I don’t hold the extreme view that the UN always fails. It is possibly good when there is a general consensus for action (UNESCO World Heritage sites), or when a well-targeted military action has a defined purpose. The UN is very bad at developing and enforcing open-ended commitments, and very bad at constructing well-run institutions.

The wider topic is the Law of the Sea Treaty, which isn’t really all that interesting unless you are more intrigued than the average person by international conventions and regulatory bodies. What is interesting to me is that his description of the strengths and weaknesses of the UN is that I think they apply to technology standards bodies as well.

The least effective standards tend to be those that are created by consortia to attempt to map out the future direction of new developments. In fact, I’d go so far as to say those standards are often unsuccessful. They tend to be overly complex, difficult to implement, and tend to map poorly to the real problem space they were aimed at. In the end, they can be hinder innovation. The most successful standards are usually those that formalize conventions that are being applied.